Friday, 5 August 2022

Review: Savage Realms Monthly July 2022


Literary Rebel, LLC, edited by William Miller

Savage Realms Monthly has been running for just over a year now, published as a paperback and a kindle e-book, showcasing three new swords and sorcery stories in each issue.

This issue is slightly different as the second story, Good for the Gander by David Wesley Hill, is not strictly speaking a swords and sorcery tale, involving as it does a cowboy magically transported to a weird realm of magic and supernatural horror, but its bizarre setting is if anything even more outlandish than most S&S tales and I doubt it will disappoint anyone. It is also filled with some of the quirkiest humour I have come across for quite some time. Transported against his will from the banks of the Rio Grande in 1879 by a sorcerer who wanted his help in a previous story, Charles Duke is struggling to find some way to return to his homeland. To his advantage he has two six-guns and a shotgun, weapons unknown in this world. But to his disadvantage, this world contains a vast array of fiendish creatures, including gods and demons. In this the third adventure about Charles Duke, he has to venture into Hell, which is even more gross than possibly anyone has ever described it before. In this magical world Hell is a real place, accessible for those crazy, foolhardy or desperate enough to enter it. Few, of course, manage to survive their encounters with its grotesque inhabitants. But that’s just part of the job if Duke is to find some way to return home. And, being the pragmatist he is, this is what he sets out to do. It’s a great, rip-roaring tale, with plenty of colourful characters, bloody conflicts and even bloodier twists and turns.

Opening this issue is A Place of Fellowship by Matt Spencer, which is possibly even bloodier, with conflicts aplenty, made all the more numerous by the betrayals and double-dealings of so many of the people Severin Gris comes into contact with in a grim world ruled by a viciously totalitarian religious movement called the Theocracy.

Closing this issue is Blood Vengeance by Zach Effenberger. Set in a world anyone who has watched the excellent Viking series on TV will recognise, the bloody feuds have been notched up quite a bit as our protagonist Magnus sets out to exact revenge on the murderer of his kin, the warlord Orm Stonefist. Norse folklore plays a big part in this tale, steeped as it is in the mindset of those who follow the gods of Valhalla. Another dark, grimly-envisaged setting filled with violent action.

Although the three tales in this issue are filled with blood and violence, they are varied too, with well imagined settings. All in all, a bloody good read.

Reviewed by David A. Riley  At the moment this link only connects to the ebook version but a print version will be available there soon.

Monday, 25 July 2022

New Sword & Sorcery story finished: Mask of a Mad God

I have finally finished a new sword and sorcery story: Mask of a Mad God, which continues the saga of Welgar the Northerner, who first appeared in Ossani the Healer and the Beautiful Homunculus and then in The Dark Priestdom, neither of which have as yet been published, though they are out there awaiting a decision. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 16 July 2022

My Retro Review of The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley

This review was specially written for the Phantasmagoria Brian Lumley Special.

THE HOUSE OF CTHULHU and Other Tales of The Primal Land

by Brian Lumley, illustrated by Jim Pitts

Weirdbook Press 1984 Hardcover 95 pages

This is a large format book measuring 8¾ inches by 11¼ inches, so although only 95 pages long it’s still quite a good read as each page is roughly the equivalent of 4 in a normal sized book.

Lavishly illustrated throughout by award-winning artist Jim Pitts, The House of Cthulhu contains eleven stories by Brian Lumley plus an Introduction by one of the fictitious characters in it, explaining how the ancient manuscript from a previously unknown civilisation from before the Age of the Dinosaurs was found and translated.

All the tales are set in the fictitious continent of Theem’hdra, the only landmass on the face of the Earth in those distant days, during a time when sorcery still prevailed.  

It’s a well imagined world, complete with a detailed map. It is also, of course, as the book’s title reveals, part of Lumley’s vision of the Cthulhu Mythos. Although I prefer Lovecraft’s original concept than this Derlethian derivation, it works well enough in the kind of swords and sorcery fantasy setting within which these tales take place. Indeed, the title story itself is a remarkable work, including a disturbing and utterly disgusting curse picked up by anyone foolish enough to venture into Cthulhu’s house on R’lyeh, complete with a singularly nasty climax.

One of the things that struck me about these tales is how good Lumley is at depicting interesting and credible sorcerers. The first story, The Sorcerer’s Book is a wonderful tale of a battle for supremacy between a group of them, and, as with many of these stories, has a suitably fitting twist at the end.

How Kank Thad Returned to Bhur-Esh, by contrast has as its main protagonist an exceptionally vicious barbarian. Kank Thad is no Conan. Though strong and violent, he takes unrepentant pleasure in killing his opponents. Which is why, when he is finally apprehended, tried and sentenced, it’s to climb the Ghost Cliffs of Shildakor. All but vertical and mountainously tall, no one has ever succeeded in reaching the summit and freedom before falling to their deaths. But Kank Thad is confident he can manage what no one else could, for “back home as a youth he had used to climb the sea-cliffs for gull eggs with the best of them…” So skilled is he at climbing, even partway up he manages to exact his revenge on some of those who sentenced him, until he finally discovers the cliffs didn’t receive their name without reason…

There are more supernatural menaces in Tharquest and the Lamia Orbiquita, a tale that gets continually darker, while Mylakhrion the Immortal is another yarn of sorcerous treachery, brief but enjoyable in its twists and turns.

Tarra Khash is a regular character in a number of Lumley’s stories, a “bronze-skinned” barbarian “in leather breach-clout and sandals with jewelled ceremonial sword in its long curved sheath strapped to his broad, well-muscled back”. Two volumes of Tarra Khash tales were published by W. Paul Ganley - The Compleat Khash: Volume 1 Never a Backwards Glance and The Compleat Khash: Volume 2 Sorcery in Shad, both illustrated by Jim Pitts.

In Isles of the Suhm-Yi Khash sets sail to a stretch of islands in pursuit of a gang of vicious pirates who have wronged him. This coincides with the annihilation of the Suhm-yi, a strange race of Moon worshippers, by a random cloud of deadly gas. By chance a couple of them survive – though they are fated to be captured by the pirates looking for a hidden treasure whose whereabouts they are convinced the couple know. Combine this with a slumbering god, Gleeth the Blind, and this is quite some tale!

Lords of the Morass is a grisly story of two prospectors who discover the source of a vast hoard of gold. But the people who have access to it worship a monstrous sluglike “gods” that live in the swamp within which the gold can be found. These are possibly the most obnoxious creatures to be found in this book. Despite the horror of these things, though, our prospectors are determined to make themselves rich.

The barbarian Tarra Khash returns in Curse of the Golden Guardians. All but dead after crossing the Nameless Desert he chances across a mysterious old man cooking his breakfast by a large lake in a hollow. Though the two seem destined to become friends, there is something not right about the old man’s explanation of why he is here, nor why he so generously offers Tarra Khash to become his partner in stealing a golden idol. Tarra Khash suspects there is more to the stranger than meets the eye.

Cryptically Yours is in the format of a series of letters between two sorcerers worried about the inexplicable deaths of so many of their confrere. As the letters progress some significant changes take place between them with some typically Lumleyish twists and turns.

The penultimate tale, The Wine of the Wizard starts off in the “present” day. Theired Gustau has concocted a special wine to a recipe found in an ancient manuscript. Unbeknown to him, his nephew, Erik, decides to taste some of it and is immediately overcome by what he thinks is a hallucination – until he realises his mind has been sent back into the body of a young man on the long-lost continent of Theem’hdra where he becomes fascinated in sharing this other person’s life.

The final tale is The Sorcerer’s Dream – which is ultimately a nightmare about the sorcerer Teh Atht, concerned about the alleged immortality of Cthulhu.

All in all, The House of Cthulhu is an entertaining mix of sword and sorcery, outright sorcery and Lumley’s brand of Mythos fiction, tied together in the same primordial setting. Jim Pitts’s illustrations, some of them full page, augment them brilliantly.  

Phantasmagoria Magazine Brian Lumley Special

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Lovecraftiana Omnibus edition 2020-2021

Lovecraftiana magazine is publishing an omnibus edition of its four issues from 2020 to 2021 in hard cover, paperback and kindle e-book.

I am delighted that this will include three of my Lovecraftian stories: Lurkers, The Shadow by the Altar and Boat Trip

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Savage Realms Monthly May 2022

My copy of Savage Realms Monthly for May 2022, with my story The Carpetmaker of Arana, arrived in the post today. 



Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4 now published as a paperback and kindle e-book

I am pleased to announce that the latest volume in our popular Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy series is now available as a paperback and kindle e-book. with even more stories and more pages than before.

Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4 contains eleven tales:
In the Iron Woods by Dev Agarwal
My People Were Fair and Wore Stars in Their Hair by Andrew Darlington
At Sea by Geoff Hart
The Flesh of Man by Frank Sawielijew
City at the Mouth of Chaos by Adrian Cole
In the Belly of the Beast by Edward Ahern
The Tracks of the Pi Nereske by Wendy Nikel
Slaves of the Monolith by Paul D. Batteiger
The Green Wood by David Dubrow
Demonic by Phil Emery
The Whips of Malmac by H. R. Laurence

Here are a few pages from the book, including the Introduction:



Thursday, 9 June 2022

My story The Carpetmaker of Arana has just been published in Savage Realms Monthly #12

I am very pleased that my fantasy tale The Carpetmaker of Arana has just been published in Savage Realms Monthly #12, which is available as a paperback and a kindle e-book. 

This is my second fantasy tale to be published this year. The Storyteller of Koss appeared in Summer of Sci-fi & Fantasy in May. 

Saturday, 28 May 2022

ChillerCon May 27th 2022

Jim Pitts and I had a great time yesterday attending Chillercon at the Royal Hotel in Scarborough, where we met up with some old and new friends. 

Trevor Kennedy held a launch and mass signing for the latest Phantasmagoria Special devoted to Brian Lumley. 

Jim Pitts, Steve Dilks and David A. Riley


Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Still on a roll: another fantasy story completed

I am pleased to find I am on something like a roll at the moment, having just completed yet another swords and sorcery story, this one entitled Welgar the Cursed, which involves my recurring hero Welgar, who appears in Ossani the Healer and the Beautiful Homunculus and The Dark Priestdom. There is also a brief appearance at the beginning of Nadrine, the Storyteller of Koss. 

"It is almost impossible for a man whose face and body have the horrifying aspect of something that belongs inside a tomb to be regarded as a hero."


Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

My copy of Summer of Sci-fi & Fantasy arrived today

My copy of Summer of Sci-fi & Fantasy arrived today, which includes my swords and sorcery fantasy tale The Storyteller of Koss.



Another Swords and Sorcery story finished: The Dark Priestdom

I seem to be on a bit of a roll with new stories at the moment. I have just completed and proofread a 10,200 word swords and sorcery story called The Dark Priestdom, which as two of its main characters has protagonists I have previously used but never in the same story before.

My swords and sorcery stories so far are:

Baal the Necromancer (published in 2021 in Mythic #17)

The God in the Keep (published in 2021 in Swords and Sorcery Magazine #118)

A Grim God's Revenge (published in 2017 in Mythic #4)

Ossani the Healer and the Beautiful Homunculus

Creatures of the Black Tunnel

The Storyteller of Koss (published in 2022 in Summer of Sci-Fi and Fantasy)

The Carpetmaker of Arana

The Dark Priestdom

Monday, 16 May 2022

Ramsey Campbell: Master of Weird Fiction by S. T. Joshi

A brand new PS Publishing book arrived in the post today direct from the publisher: S. T. Joshi's Ramsey Campbell: Master of Weird Fiction. Over 300 pages. Looking forward to delving into this.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Storyteller of Koss published in Summer of Sci-Fi & Fantasy

My swords and sorcery fantasy story The Storyteller of Koss has just been published in Summer of Sci-Fi & Fantasy edited by Dustin Bilyk in the States, though it is also available from amazon uk.

My story follows on from events told in my previously published tale Baal the Necromancer (Mythic #17, 2021). I am in the process of finishing another, quite long story called The Dark Priestdom in which the storyteller is again one of the two main characters. The other protagonist, a mercenary called Welgar, also appeared in a recent story Ossani the Healer & the Beautiful Homunculus, which has yet to be published.  

Just to add to the complications (and perhaps to the confusion!) Ossani the Healer appears towards the end of The Storyteller of Koss